Prepared by Mrs. Madeline Fung-Khee (with cheese grating assistance from Ms. Finola Fung-Khee) over in New York.
Says Finola on cooking in the Fung-Khee household:
“When we were younger, mom was determined that her children should know how to cook and I guess baking seemed almost magical at the time. So during the week we would agree on something fun to make that weekend; cake, buns, sugarcake – the gooey kind, cheese straw, cheese scones….once we even made icecream, churned it and everything! Come Saturday she would chase us into the kitchen, we’d all chat and argue ( fight over the cake bowl or try to run from the dishes), we would laugh and make magic. That’s how we learnt to cook. And it stayed with us. Turn a task into an adventure and voila! Mom’s macaroni became a thing among the cousins. And we were proud cause we knew how the magic was was done.”
Getting down to the magic…
You will need:
* Any kind of noodles (short and tubular) macaroni or penne – 1lb
* Butter- 1/2 lbs (or half butter, half oil) we like I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter
* Flour – 2 1/2 full tablespoons
* Milk – 2 pints (preferably fullcream for a rich,creamier effect)
* Mustard – 2 teaspoons (depending on how salty your cheese is)
* Cheese – 1lb grated (Any type of sharp cheddar, we like to add a bit of gouda cheese in the mix too)
* Pepper – wiri wiri! Finely chopped, enough to garnish and, if you are like us, want to add some heat in the sauce itself. We used about 3 fat red ones.
* 1 small Onion (optional) – Very finely chopped
* Eggs (optional) – 6 eggs beaten and left aside in a bowl (makes macaroni sauce fluffier)
* Parsley – just a bit to garnish
1. Pre-Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Lightly grease baking pans (we use Pyrex) with butter
3. Boil pasta noodles in salted water until soft, drain and put aside
Make sure you prepare all ingredients before starting the sauce.
4. Melt butter in pan over medium heat
5. Stir in flour – cook for a few minutes
6. Add all the milk, stirring continuously until mixture is smooth and thick. Use a whisk if necessary. If sauce becomes too thick, add more milk.
7. Add your eggs. HOLD UP! So that your eggs don’t curdle, add a scoop of the sauce into the bowl with the beaten eggs and whisk it until the mixture blends in together. Then add that back to the pan and stir in.
8. Take pan off stove.
9. Add in the remaining ingredients (onions, peppers for added heat, most of the cheese and lastly the mustard for that kick – I like to taste a bit of mustard in my sauce) Some of the sauce will be soaked up in the noodles so you can add more milk depending on how dry you want your macaroni to turn out.
10. Mix in the noodles.
11. Taste test. Use mustard to add a bit more saltiness if you want.
12. Pour macaroni mixture into pan
13. Sprinkle with remaining cheese ( I like to be generous) and garnish with peppers and parsley.
14. Pop in the oven at 400 degrees until golden brown. 40 – 50 mins.
Finola’s note: Watch that the sides dont burn. You can take it out anytime after 30 mins as everything is already cooked. You are really just baking to glue everything together and lightly colour the top. I would add eggs maybe but not so many, maybe 3. With the eggs, it has more of a loose baked custard texture…. I like my macaroni smoother and a fair amount of sauce.
So, there you have it.
Macaroni and cheese may seem like a strange dish to associate with one’s culture but it’s a very common lunch or dinner meal and is a staple at get togethers – no matter how formal. I’d love to know is how it got to us in the first place but I’m not complaining! Foreigners, before you raise your eyebrows at its popularity and cultural significance, let me assure you that the Kraft box version which you may be thinking of pales in comparison. You haven’t had mac and cheese til you’ve had it Guyanese style!
The Fung-Khee’s currently live in New York but obviously still carry their Guyanese roots with them (as I type this, they are getting ready to join in the Phagwah Parade in Queens). I have been going over to their house and partaking in their meals since the age of 5. They taught me how to make a mean cheese sauce! They still visit Guyana regularly but not enough for Finola to stop dreaming about, and I quote,” Sapadilla. Simitoo, starapple, cashew from Granty’s Tree, sugarcane from the neighbour’s yard, fresh cherry juice, suriname cherry from Uncle Sterling’s yard, papaw, sweet fig, coconut water & jelly (from the trees in the backyard), MANGOES! Glorious mangoes!“